After a pair of exhibition matches against Division II schools in the past week, Michigan finally gets to open the season tonight in the Crisler Center. Another Division II foe comes to town, but this time it’s none other than the school we all cheer for on Saturdays when their scores are announced in the Big House: Slippery Rock.
Just because they’re not a Division I squad doesn’t mean Michigan can take The Rock lightly. Four starters return from last season’s 17-10 team. They’re picked to finish second in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Western Division this season behind Indiana (Pa.).
The Rock are led by senior forward Devin Taylor, who averaged a team-high 13.5 points and PSAC high 9.8 rebounds per game last season. Junior forward Tabari Perry averaged 9.5 points and seven rebounds per game. Both were 2011 All-PSAC-West second-team selections.
Point guard Aubin Reeves also returns, after finishing second on the team in scoring last season with an average of 9.6 points. Luiz Santos, a 6’10” center from Sao Paulo, Brazil averaged 6.5 points and tied Perry for second on the team with seven rebounds a game, while senior guard John Bayardelle averaged 7.5 points off the bench.
Perhaps the best player on the team is a newcomer, transfer Gerald Brooks. The senior forward isn’t eligible to play until Dec. 18 because of his transfer from conference rival Indiana (Pa.), but he was selected to the Basketball Times NCAA Division II Pre-Season All-America list. He averaged 15.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game last season.
Guard Jermaine Edwards transfered from Barry University, where he started, while forward Darious Clark transfered from Division I’s Illinois State. He played in 14 games for the Redbirds who played in the NIT.
As you can see, this is a team that has a lot of talent despite being at the Division II level. In their first exhibition game on Sunday, Slipper Rock beat Navy 79-56. Perry scored 18 and Bayardelle added 14. Two players, Taylor and Santos recorded double-doubles (13 points and 13 rebounds for Taylor, 10 and 10 for Santos). Before you get worried, realize that Navy went just 3-26 last season.
Michigan’s “fresh five” got their feet wet against Northern Michigan and Saginaw Valley and now will get their first test that actually counts. Stay tuned for Sam’s quick thoughts later this afternoon.